What I learned about education in Ethiopia
My name is Anita Pap. I am one of the lucky people who visited UNICEF projects in Ethiopia supported by the IKEA Soft Toy Campaign. Even though my trip was six months ago, I still think about it every day.
One of the most important UNICEF programs focuses on education in Ethiopia. It is important that every child has access to a quality education. UNICEF focuses on teachers and the training of teachers. The continuous development of teachers is very important so children’s education quality does not fall behind other countries’ students.
One of the major problems is that not all children have the opportunity to attend school. Nearly 82 million people live in Ethiopia. About 82% of the population is found in rural areas and makes a living from subsistence farming. The children who live in rural areas help their parents with housework and work with the animals. Sometimes these children don’t have a kindergarten and nursery. The fortunate start education at the age of four, but some are not able to afford for their children to attend school when they reach the age of six. Many children drop out of school when they have finished the first grade. Over one out of five students drop out of school before reaching grade 2.
Over 3.02 million children are out of school.
European education systems are different from what we saw in Ethiopia in many ways. The children go to school in two shifts per day. The first team’s lessons start in the morning and finish early in the afternoon. These young people have lunch at home then help their parents work in the fields and around the house. The other group arrives at school early in the afternoon and learns until early evening. This team started the day with work.
They will learn games and rhymes in kindergarten. They get to know some new words in English and Amharic from pictures. Amharic is the local language in this region. Lessons are interactive, playfully and sometimes they try new things in practice. (For example: ball games, painting, math). The equipment is very simple, just like the environment. Often the teachers paint pictures on the wall. There are few images in the textbooks.
The biggest influence on me during the Ethiopian trip was when I saw the children and teachers’ attitude to each other. I talked with a man who works in the hotel reception where we were staying. He said to me, “You must respect three people in your life: God, Teacher, and Parents. In that order.”
It was a very incredible feeling when I saw the respectful behaviour for the teachers. The children silently sit in the classroom and watch all the movements and speech of the teacher. Most of the children who live there want to be a teacher when they grow up.
The teachers’ dedication to the profession and to the children was an incredible experience for us. Sometimes the teachers prepare their own materials by hand to help the children learn. The teachers are constantly training themselves because they are very important for the quality of education. One teacher deals with at least 40-50 children at the same time, but sometimes teachers can have 100 students per class. I see in their eyes their commitment and willingness to help.
There is a need for education and training. These children walk 6-8 kilometres every day in the sun and the rocky, gravel roads, sometimes barefoot, just to attend school. These kids help their parents before and after school.
We experienced during our trip one of the biggest opportunities for improvement in Ethiopia: giving children access to education. This is supported by UNICEF, the IKEA Soft Toy campaign, and the adults who earlier attended education programs. This problem won’t be solved easily.
The Soft Toy campaign is much different from other donations. For each soft toy IKEA sells (irrespective of the value), the IKEA Foundation donates 1 euro to Save the Children and UNICEF projects. This campaign runs from 2nd of November to 23th December this year. The donation will help many more children change their lives through having a quality education. The campaign has raised € 47.5 million since 2003, helping more than 8 million children in 45 countries have better living conditions.